05.13.2015 1

Not so fast track?

By Robert Romano

no fast trackSenate Democrats blocked legislation on May 12 that would grant trade promotion authority to President Barack Obama to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a commercial treaty between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The vote failed to clear the 60-vote threshold, 52-45.

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) is demanding, according to Rollcall.com, “a guarantee or an agreement that the customs bill, the Trade Promotion Authority bill, the Trade Adjustment Assistance and a three-bill package that includes the African Growth and Opportunity Act, Generalized System of Preferences and reauthorization of a trade program for Haiti move through Congress and become law, his spokesman Keith Chu said.”

The customs bill, reports Rollcall.com, “would expand the definition of export subsidies to include currency undervaluation by trading partners that causes harm to U.S. companies. The United States would have to impose import duties on goods the Commerce Department identifies as benefiting from the undervaluation.”

Keep in mind, according to the initial demands, all of this legislation including the monetary provisions has to “move through Congress and become law,” not simply be granted Senate votes only to be ultimately defeated.

There’s only one problem. That would torpedo the entire agreement, say Senate Republicans, to whom the filibuster came as a surprise. Japan, for example, would drop out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership if it included monetary policy.

“We’re not open to something that was not agreed to, and flies in the face of what was agreed to,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch told reporters, expressing dismay that the original deal to bring the bill to the floor had been altered.

As for the fate of the bill, Hatch said, “It all depends on the Democrats, not us. They’re the ones killing the bill.”

This turned out to be quite an impasse in the Senate, where easy passage had been expected for the trade bill.

Yet, things can change quickly. As the Washington Examiner reports, Senate Democrats have already signaled they are willing to strip out the currency provisions — as long as they get all of the other pieces of legislation they are asking for, including trade adjustment assistance.

Meaning, the vaunted Democrat firewall against supposed currency manipulation may have evaporated within hours of blocking the bill. Guess stopping those cheating on trade is not that important after all.

No word yet on whether the deal will fly. Otherwise, to get to the legislation now, provisions would have to be included that would kill the overall agreement.

Which is just fine with Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning, who after the failed vote said, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should permanently shelve attempts to grant trade authority to President Obama,” adding, “there is no reason for McConnell to waste any more of the Senate’s time on this issue.”

Manning concluded, “This is particularly true given the almost impossible odds fast track now faces in the House of Representatives. It’s time to say buh-bye to fast track.”

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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